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9 Fantasy Football Smash Starts for Week 12 (2023)

9 Fantasy Football Smash Starts for Week 12 (2023)

That Week 11 slate was brutal. Your fantasy team was lucky if it made it through the week without suffering any injuries. Personally, I lost Aaron Jones, Mark Andrews, Kenneth Walker and Cooper Kupp – all in one league. That happens when we get this deep into the season, though, and it shows just how much of a grind this five-month season can be. With that said, we love some of these Week 12 picks, so let’s get into it.

The premise behind this article is simple: Identify fantasy football smash plays that are on the fringe of your starting lineup. We rarely recommend a top-20 player at any position, but we want to help you fill those critical flex spots.

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Smash Starts for Week 12


Kyler Murray (ARI) vs. LAR

We wanted to wait to see how Murray looked after his return to action – but he looks as good as ever. What’s really encouraging is his willingness to run because we weren’t so sure he would after ACL surgery. The speedy quarterback has 84 rushing yards in his first two games and a rushing touchdown in each game. That rushing ability has made Murray one of the top quarterbacks in fantasy in the past, and we have to assume the throwing will come around as well.

He’s also had success against the Los Angeles throughout his career. He’s scored at least 25 fantasy points in two of their past three meetings. And in the one game he didn’t reach 25 points , Murray threw for 314 yards on 58 passing attempts. Meanwhile, this is the worst Rams defense he’s ever seen as they’re ranked 18th in total yards allowed.

Running Backs

Derrick Henry (TEN) vs. CAR

Fantasy managers might bench Henry after his past two games. He’s scored just 8.4 combined fantasy points during those contests. That’s a nightmarish stretch, but it overshadows what could be his best matchup of the season. Carolina has been horrific against opposing rushers as they’ve surrender the second-most fantasy points in the NFL.

What’s equally as encouraging is that this is a could be a good game script because Tennessee is finally a favorite despite losing five of their past six outings. Positive game scripts are as important as anything when examining Henry’s value: He’s had at least 22 carries in all three wins this year. Henry’s also averaged nearly 20 fantasy points in those outings and should reach that at ease against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Rhamondre Stevenson (NE) at NYG

Stevenson has been one of the biggest busts in season-long leagues, but we love him this week. His recent form is hard to overlook, though. Stevenson scored at least 12 fantasy points in four of his past five games. He’s become a much bigger part of the passing game in that stretch, which is huge since he was a top-10 back after the opening two weeks of last season. The resurgence is nothing compared to the matchup, though, with the New York Giants allowing the second-most rushing yards in the NFL. If Stevenson gets the 20 touches we expect in what should be a grinder of a game. He will be one of the best flex options out there.

Jerome Ford (CLE) at DEN

We had Ford in this section last week, and we’re going right back to the well. While he wasn’t efficient on the ground, Ford had another double-digit outing this past week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s scored at least 10 fantasy points in seven of nine games since Nick Chubb‘s season-ending injury and averaged 13 fantasy points per game in that span. Not many running backs have been that reliable this season, but it should continue since he’s getting 14 carries a game. If Ford gets 15-20 touches against Denver, he will finish the week as a top-10 back. We say that because the Broncos are surrendering the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

Wide Receivers

Michael Pittman Jr. (IND) vs. TB

There are not many weapons in this Indy passing game, but Pittman is the top option. He’s eighth in the NFL with a 30.4 percent team target share – above players like Ja’Marr Chase, Amon-Ra St. Brown and CeeDee Lamb. That absurd target share has led to some immense volume: He’s eighth in the league with 66 receptions. That’s led Pittman to average at least eight catches in four of his last five outings, which should be easy to reach against Tampa Bay. The Bucs allow the most passing yards in the NFL over the past month while surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers this season.

Zay Flowers (BAL) at LAC

This rookie’s fantasy production has been inconsistent, mainly because he’s only scored one touchdown all year. He should’ve had one last week and will surely be targeted more with tight Mark Andrews out for the season. This kid was already the most important part of this receiving group, playing in 98 percent of the team’s snaps last week. He’s also leading the team with a 25 percent team target share, though that number could creep closer to 30 since Andrews is gone. Double-digit targets are in play for one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL, which is incredible since the Los Angeles Chargers allow the most fantasy points to opposing pass-catchers this season.

Adam Thielen (CAR) at TEN

Thielen was terrible when this team decided to switch signal-callers for three weeks, but he got back on track in Week 11 when head coach Frank Reich re-assumed play-calling duties. Thielen had at least seven catches in all five games before they switched from Reich to Thomas Brown and scored at least 12 fantasy points in all of those. He was one of the league-leaders with 20 fantasy points per game and then fell to an 8-point average in the three games Brown took over.

What we love is that he got eight catches on 11 targets in the first game that Reich took back play-calling duties in Week 11. It sounds like Thielen is locked into 7-10 receptions and 10-15 targets with the way this offense is constructed, and we can’t overlook that workload against Tennessee. The Titans are surrendering the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts this season.

Tight Ends

David Njoku (CLE) at DEN

Njoku hasn’t had many monster fantasy games, but it’s hard to overlook his role in this offense. The big tight end has at least six targets in six of his past seven outings and posted a career-high 15 targets in Week 11. It’s rare to see a tight end get double-digit targets, let alone 15. It’s less shocking since Browns rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson is behind center – Njoku had six catches in the first game that DTR played. A massive tight end like this is always a great safety blanket for an inexperienced quarterback, and he should continue to be force-fed targets for this shorthanded team. The matchup is the icing on the cake, with Denver allowing the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.


New England Patriots at NYG

We might use a D/ST against the Giants for the remainder of the season. It worked well with the Washington Commanders this past week because New York has the worst offense in football. Between their playmakers and offensive line, they’re a godsend to use against D/STs. They’ve surrendered the most fantasy points to opposing D/STs this season, and facing a Bill Belichick team off of a bye is a recipe for disaster. The Patriots have a 16-7 record in the Belichick era after the bye week and allowed 25 or fewer points in all but two games. The Patriots allowed just 16.4 points per game in those outings and enter this game as a 3.5-point favorite in a game with a 34-point total.


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Joel Bartilotta is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joel, check out his archive and follow him @Bartilottajoel.

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